Skip navigation

Tom Vogel's Blog

July 2015 Previous month Next month

Optimize your IMS environment by adding an Advisor to your team 

By Sudipta Sengupta


The adage “the only constant in life is change” is true for database environments. As a DBA, you know that things change all the time – new application requirements, more data to manage, and so on. But some things never change. Meeting performance and availability goals, ensuring data integrity and reducing costs will always be essential. Consider an Advisor - a policy-based database management approach to help accomplish your goals. To implement such an approach, it is important to understand the forces that are driving change in your environment. Most likely, change comes from one or more of the following areas.


Growth of data. Today’s business requirements drive larger volumes of data to be generated and retained. This translates to more data that needs to be maintained at optimal performance levels. With wider adoption of partitioned database objects, we have the means to accommodate this larger volume of data – however, it also means that DBAs need to maintain a significantly larger number of database objects.


  1. Availability. While 24x7 availability is not a new requirement, the need to keep databases available, combined with the requirement to maintain a large number of database objects, presents a unique challenge. The maintenance window is shrinking, yet the number of database objects that need to be maintained is increasing. Implementing database changes takes longer than ever, because you must factor in change management procedures and coordinate with application groups.


Changes in workforce. Senior DBAs are retiring and their replacements are grappling with vast and complex systems for which they have very little knowledge. The technical and business knowledge pools that have been built over past decades are disappearing, along with the workforce that helped create them.


How can you provide the service levels needed while dealing with this continuous change? Given the large volume of database objects, it is extremely difficult to manually review statistics from individual databases and ensure their optimal performance. An alternative to consider is a policy-based approach to database management.


Take Control. What is policy-based database management? With this approach, you determine the thresholds and boundaries that are acceptable for your environment. You can use a tool, such as BMC MAXM Database Advisor, to help enforce these rules. The tool provides a prioritized work list that factors in the lead time required for remedial actions. Let’s look at the steps required to implement a policy-based approach to database management.


Consider the volatility of your environment - this will dictate how frequently data needs to be collected and analyzed. For example, a database object that incurs many updates might need to be monitored much more frequently than a database that contains read-only archive data. Also consider lead time - how long does it take to implement a remedial action? A simple database reorganization might need very little lead time to implement, whereas a database migration dictated by space constraints might require a more involved process. Proactive database monitoring is imperative. It empowers you to easily determine how fast a database object is changing and how much time is available to implement remedial actions that are required.


Enforce policies. After setting these variables, determine the policies you want to use to maintain your databases. Typically, these policies will consist of one or more thresholds. Database monitoring thresholds can be broadly classified into database space management, database performance management, and database recovery. For ease of maintenance, consider default policies that apply to a majority of your databases. After defaults are in place, you can customize the policies as needed for a smaller group of databases or a specific database object.


Now your thresholds, data collection intervals, and lead time requirements are in place, and your database management tool can automate a large portion of the database management lifecycle. The tool can provide a consolidated list of database objects that are in violation of the thresholds or violate a threshold within the specified lead time. This automation allows you to concentrate on a small fraction of database objects for which you are responsible.


When a database object is in violation of a policy, the automation tool should recommend a solution to fix the problem. This recommendation depends on the type of database object and the various database management tools that are available in your environment. With an automated tool, you can implement the recommendation or further analyze the problem and implement a solution of your choice. For certain types of policy violations, consider automating the solution process as well by allowing your tool to run jobs that fix the problem. Of course, the level of automation you choose depends on the level of comfort users have with the tool and the policies in your environment.


Go beyond. Policy- based database management goes beyond automating the database management lifecycle. You can extend the same policy-based management to other tasks. For example, balancing data across multiple database objects is a common task in a growing environment. A policy could contain guidelines, such as how many database objects the data should span or how much data should be stored in each database object. After these boundaries are defined, the tool can analyze the data and provide a detailed schema of how the data partitioning should be defined.


A tool that helps implement a policy-based database management environment can also help you optimize resource usage. In many IT organizations, database reorganizations are scheduled at pre-defined intervals – daily, weekly, monthly, and so on. Many DBAs do not have time to determine whether database reorganization is necessary, so they reorganize all databases on a schedule – wasting valuable time and CPU resources. A database management tool that has information about all databases in the environment--and more importantly the database objects that are in violation of a policy–can eliminate reorgs for databases that are not in violation of a policy. The advantage of this approach is that you can avoid making changes to the maintenance schedules.


Knowledge capture. As senior DBAs retire from the workforce, it is essential to provide a mechanism to help capture the business knowledge and expertise that they have gained. A policy-based database management tool helps do just that. Experienced DBAs can define the policies and capture knowledge in the tool, so less-experienced DBAs can maintain the environment. A tool like BMC MAXM Database Advisor can enable users to accomplish complicated tasks using workflows-- a task that spans multiple days or weeks can be handed from one individual to another. The senior DBA can outline the work, and a junior DBA can then complete it. Knowledge transfer takes place and users can track the progress of a complicated task.



A policy-based database management “advisor” tool is critical in today’s environment. It helps DBAs proactively manage a large number of database objects, save time and resources, accomplish complicated tasks through workflows, capture critical business knowledge, and keep databases available and performing optimally. Find out more about BMC MAXM Database Advisor.